You might expect the Museum of American Finance, located on Wall Street in a breathtaking structure that once housed the Bank of New York, to be an enthusiastic proponent of free enterprise. After all, as one exhibit points out, when people buy stocks, it "serve[s] society as a whole, enabling the company to create jobs and produce goods and services."
It's disappointing, then, that the Smithsonian affiliate is more a paean to government oversight than a love letter to unfettered exchange. The world "looks to the Federal Reserve to help stabilize the economy in troubled times," one placard explains. Would-be homeowners and college students would certainly be out of luck but for loan programs from entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reveals another.
Off to one side, a whole room is dedicated to Alexander Hamilton—lauded as "the principal architect of America's free-market capitalist system" for his founding of the U.S. Mint, the Customs Department, the first central bank, and the tax system. If this is freedom, who needs a king?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Museum of American Finance".